Friends With Benefits: What Does a $10,001 Referral Bonus Mean?

Kris Dunn Kris Dunn, Recruiting, Sourcing

You know the drill.  Companies use referral bonuses all the time, either having them on at all times or spiking them up and down based on need, in an attempt to generate action.

$500?  Yawn..

$1,000?  Hey, it looks like HR is struggling to fill those spots!  Let’s make fun of them a little bit before we get working today…

$3,000?  What?  Hold on a second, I need to figure out if I know anyone.

Referral bonuses are messages.  They’re marketing offers, and the level of the bonus (as illustrated above) trains our audience whether we like it our not.  If you don’t change up your referral bonus, you’re training your employee base to ignore the message.  Switch it up and experiment, and you’ve got a chance at getting a couple of minutes worth of attention from the employees you really need to pay attention to – the ones with networks in your area of need.

Of course, some tweaks are better than others.  What does it mean when someone up and pops in a $10,001 Referral Bonus?  One company I like a lot these days – Pardot – just created that type of referral bonus.  Here’s more on that from the Pardot Blog, we’ll talk about what it means after the jump:

“Pardot is continuing to hire aggressively. We have added 25+ team members so far this year and plan to add many more before the year is out. We know that tapping into our social graph to find great people has always been the best way for us to build out our team. We have just started a new program to reward anyone in the greater tech community (not only our employees) for referring great employees our way.

The rules are pretty straightforward:

    • The referred candidate must actually know you (duh!) and acknowledge that you sent him/her our way. We have a referral slot on our application for the candidate to use.Yo
    • u can be a recruiter but the $10,001 would be in lieu of any other remuneration you would normally earn on a placement. It would also not construe any ongoing contract for placement with Pardot.
    • This applies only to full-time software engineering positions.
    • You can either send an email to [email protected] with the candidate’s information or the candidate can contact us directly and list you as a reference. If we receive multiple intro contacts for the same candidate, the first one received will win out.
    • The $10,001 will be paid out 120 days from the candidate’s start date.”

I love it when companies break out of the mold and try and stir #@#* up.  It’s the only way to interrupt the pattern of white noise that all of us have in our lives, as we try to consume 100,000 info sources.

Here’s what it means when a company like Pardot breaks off a $10,001 referral bonus in the fashion outlined above:

1. Pardot is having a hard time finding the right software development talent.  I know, Duh.  Wait, I’ve got more…

2. They understand what most companies don’t – that limiting your referral bonus program to only internal employees doesn’t make sense – they’ve put a bounty on it for anyone externally to chase as well.  SMART.

3. The $$ included in the offer matters.  I think 3K is when people start spending some time looking.  $10,001 will undoubtedly generate discretionary effort inside and outside the company.

4.  Doing something original related to the Referral Bonus level generates more buzz and creates a longer tail of promotion.  Note that it’s $10,001, not 10K flat.  That gets some extra buzz, and the buzz will last longer as a result.  You could do a smaller amount but call it the 2012 bonus to start next year – $2,012 per hired referral – and it will be passed along more social graphs than usual.

5.  Pardot hedges their bets and limits their risk by increasing the period someone has to be there to collect the bonus, from the standard 90 days to 120 days.  They could increase it to 180 days and still get the same buzz and activity level.  The 10K is more important than this detail.

6. They’re actually encouraging recruiters in the field to get a quick individual pop by specifically mentioning them in this rundown.  Your firm doesn’t work with us?  Heck, why don’t you submit on your own?  You can make 10K and how you split that with your company is for you to work out on your own.

Referral Bonus Programs can get stale quickly… If you want to get the attention of the people who can help you the most, you need to change your message every 3 months – at a minimum.

Shake it up like Pardot.  Oh, and if you apply, put my name in as the guy who referred you.  #winning